MoBay marine park strapped for cash
WESTERN BUREAU: The Montego Bay Marine Park Trust, the non-governmental organisation (NGO) that manages a long stretch of protected coastline in the western city, is in a up-hill fight to raise to close the remaining $7 million on what its executive director, Jill Williams, described as a “bare bones” budget of $10 million.
If the Trust does not raise the cash it will have to severely cut back on its work in the park, already scaled back for lack of funding.
“Ten million (dollars) will allow us to meet our bare bones operations,” said Williams. “We can get our staff level back up to 11 and to do some patrols.”
The trust expects to raise about $3.3 million from a special $50 million, three-year fund operated by Environment Foundation of Jamaica, but is having to re-write its management plan to tap into that programme.
The EFJ Jamaica will finance specific projects operated by the Montego Bay Marine Park Trust, but not its ordinary operational costs.
The Montego Bay Marine Park falls, ultimately, under the Natural Resources and Conservation Authority (NRCA), the government agency that monitors the environment.
However, the NGO that was established for its management it was among a number that were established in the early 1990s, so as to allow local stakeholders greater control over matters affecting their communities.
Financing for work to preserve parks and other protected areas initially came funds released under debt-for-nature swaps between Jamaica and the United States in which debts were written off if the savings were allocated to environmental protection programmes.
However, most of the money that remained under the management of the government has run out, putting pressure on the Montego Bay Marine Parks and other protected areas.
For instance, while the government provided the Montego Bay marine facility with $2.7million in the 1998/1999 financial year, it only received a meagre $400,000 this financial year. And to compound the situation, the park received only half of the $10 million expected this year from the National Park Trust Fund, through which the debt-for-nature cash is channelled.
The upshot, Williams said, was that the Marine Park could not renew the contract of its manager, when expired in June, and it now has only one park ranger to patrol a coastline stretching from the Great River to the Sangster International Airport.
In addition the park has had to scale back much of its programme, including the maintenance of its patrol boat and the mooring buoys.
Williams said to close the funding gap, the park will increase its fund-raising efforts. A recent function at the Doctor’s Cave Beach raised just over a quarter of a million dollars.
Additionally, the trust is lobbying for a larger chunk of the funds that goes to the Beach Control Authority from beach fees.